To be honest, I’ve been in a bit of a dry spell in my H.Fic. reading this summer.
Does it sound cooler to say H. Fic? I think it does.
I’ve picked up books, read some, and put them down. Maybe I’m bored. Maybe I just need to get the heck out of the eighteenth century.
Love me some eighteenth century, though. We all know this.
I generally like to remain positive in my blog posts, as grad school left me with a distaste for hating on books for the sake of sounding smart. (Still, my brother often accuses me of hating on books and movies whenever I apply my trusty critical lens. True quote: “That was an awesome, movie, Courtney, and you hated on it.”)
So I’ve made a list of things I don’t necessarily hate in H. Fic., but do find mildly annoying. If the book is good enough, I will ignore them. If it is not…then, well, yes, I will hate on it, but usually not in print and not unless I’m absolutely sure my reasoning is sound.
This, then, is a general list. Making it is a useful exercise for me. I find that whenever something bugs me, I understand it better after I write about it.
- Excessive and Unlikely Cameos by Historic Household Names:
This is the “George Washington slept here” of the H. Fic. world. Only now George Washington is showing up in this book, being all noble and stuff.
- Your Research is Showing:
In my teaching, I find that beginning composition students often have trouble choosing what information from their research to include in their essays, and one solution is to include all of it. The trouble is that makes it very hard for the reader to figure out what’s important. As I tell my students, the writer absolutely should know far more about the topic than what ends up in the final paper. The writer should be able to bore and harass friends and family with this information. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely believe in accuracy. But no reader likes to be drowned in Fun Facts.
- The Preachiest Genre:
Sometimes, H. Fic. shows up with an inflated sense of its own august importance. It is going to Teach Us Things and Enlighten Us. By hitting us over the figurative head with a figurative mallet, if necessary.
- No one thought that in 1526. It had not even occurred to them:
It drives me up a wall when characters behave in ways or hold beliefs that are utterly at odds with their contexts. I know that there have been free-thinkers in every age, but sometimes these characters are just so unlikely as to be laughable. And they’re only there because we’re uncomfortable with the messiness of the past. They exist to make us feel better about bad things that happened. And this begs the question, “Should we feel better about bad things that happened?”
I feel better after getting these annoyances off my chest. It makes me sad that genres often are judged by their worst examples instead of by their best. I think that often prevents readers from giving an unfamiliar genre a try, or from giving it another try if the first experience wasn’t great.
What elements of H. Fic.—or of any genre you otherwise enjoy—annoy you?